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Cammalleri ready to get Canadiens back on top

by James Murphy /
You came to see me when the moon was new 
Saw you standin' in the pouring rain 
Left my message on the window pain 
Back on the street again 
Back on the beat again 
I'm back on the top again
-- Van Morrison's "Back on Top"

Mike Cammalleri, a huge Van Morrison fan, is hoping he can help the Montreal Canadiens sing that verse this season.

He was part of a major roster overhaul by General Manager Bob Gainey this summer in which Gainey signed forwards Cammalleri, Brian Gionta and Travis Moen, defensemen Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek and traded for Scott Gomez. Gainey also waved goodbye to notable players Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Chris Higgins and Mike Komisarek.

With so many new faces on the roster, plus a new coach in Jacques Martin, some orientation will be in store in the coming weeks as players trickle in for camp. But while some may believe that so many new players may serve as a detriment to a team in the early stages of the season,
Cammalleri sees it a different way.

"This is a really amazing opportunity," Cammalleri said. "We have a chance to make our own stamp on this team and really form our own identity. Sure it will take a bit of time to get used to each other, but I think this is pretty exciting. Obviously last season there were some tough times here and some things off the ice they went through but that's in the past now and we can help this team move forward."

That and the opportunity to help one of the most prestigious teams in sports history were simply too hard for Cammalleri to pass up. Despite growing up in the land of Leafs fans, Cammalleri already had an affection and respect for the Canadiens and all Original Six teams.

"I've always been quite a romantic when it comes to tradition and history," Cammalleri said. "My father and I, when we're together, we probably talk about sports 90 percent of the time. He's taught me a lot about the history of the game and I just really am interested in that stuff. I'm definitely a huge sports fan, so to play for a team like the Canadiens is huge."

Cammalleri was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round (49th pick), of the 2001 Entry Draft and spent his first five NHL seasons in Los Angeles. He won't deny that he enjoyed the sun and glamour of Hollywood and learned a lot during his days with the Kings, but Cammalleri's time in Calgary last season helped him realize what he wanted when he became an unrestricted free agent this past July.

"I had a great time playing in L.A., don't get me wrong, but when I got to Calgary and got to play in front of those fans, in that atmosphere, it was great and I knew that's what I wanted to do during my next contract," he said. "To be able to play in a place like Calgary and Canada where people bleed hockey, the passion is so high every game, that was something I never had and it was just such a great experience."

"I loved the fans of Calgary and it's too bad it wasn't longer there, but I think I'm in the same type of setting here in Montreal. Every time I have played there, it has always been a surreal experience and I can't wait to do it on a regular basis."

Cammalleri doesn't know who will be on his line yet, but the two-time 30-goal scorer is ready to help his new teammates in any way.

"I really like the blend of players on our roster so I'm sure no matter what Jacques does with lines, we can blend in and find our roles," he said. "I'm excited to get things going and I like our chances and I think we can turn this around."

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